It seems like every month a new technology emerges with the potential to change everything. Technology writers and analysts get hyperexcited. Everyone starts patting one another on the back and hugging. And two years later, we're still talking about the promise of that technology, with little to show in the here and now.
That's why as we began to look at core technologies that may have the greatest effect on the world of computing over the next 12 months, we paid special attention to how soon these advances will be available to everyday users, either at the enterprise or the personal level. The result is the following list of five emerging technologies with groundbreaking potential -- this year as well as in the future.
1. Ruby on Rails: Faster, easier Web development
Chances are you've heard the term Ruby on Rails -- probably from someone on your Web development team lobbying heavily to use it for some or all of your company's Web development.
Ruby on Rails (also known as RoR and Rails) is a Web application framework written in Ruby, an object-oriented programming language known for its clean syntax. Released in 2004, RoR is an open-source project that originally served as the foundation of a project management tool designed by Web development company 37signals. It is easily ported among Linux, Windows and Macintosh environments, and it can have a dramatic impact on the speed at which a Web development team is able to build and maintain enterprise Web sites and applications.
Equal parts design philosophy and development environment, Rails offers developers a few key code-level advantages when constructing database-backed Web applications. One of the central tenets emphasizes using less code for application development by avoiding redundancy and following Rails conventions. This means increased performance and, ideally, decreased development times.
Thanks to these efficiencies and the open-source nature of the Web development framework, Ruby on Rails is experiencing a tremendous surge in popularity. Notable apps and sites built on Rails include 37signals' own Basecamp project management tool, the Jobster job search site and Revolution Health, an interactive health information site headed by former AOL CEO Steve Case. And Apple has announced that Mac OS X 10.5 (code-named "Leopard") will ship with Rails bundled into the operating system when it is released this spring.
For more details on Ruby on Rails, see the official Ruby on Rails Web site, or see the Wikipedia entry.